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When Windir singer Valfar died in 2004, the Norwegian band's three remaining members could have searched for a replacement. But instead, they opted to discontinue Windir and form a new band called Vreid with guitarist Ese. Kraft is the debut album by Vreid, which unites Ese with Windir graduates Sture (vocals, guitar), Hváll (bass), and Steingrim (drums). Vreid, like Windir, is a black metal band, but Vreid is not a carbon copy of Windir. While Windir embraced symphonic black metal -- a melodic style that combines black metal with the intricacy of power metal and, in some cases, progressive rock -- Vreid goes for a rawer, more primal approach to black metal. That isn't to say that Kraft isn't melodic; as forcefully as Vreid rocks, their material is definitely melodic. But Kraft doesn't have the grandiose, elaborate outlook that one associates with symphonic black metal. Instead, Kraft is a throwback to the early days of black metal and recalls that late-'80s/early-'90s era in which thrash metal was giving way to the death metal/black metal field. This is a band that is obviously well aware of black metal's thrash and punk heritage; their riffs are headbanger riffs, but they're headbanger riffs with a lot of old-school punk appeal. Of course, death metal and black metal in general owe punk a huge debt of gratitude; '80s thrash metal (as in Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, Exodus, and Testament) was a mixture of metal and punk, and the death metal/black metal field was an outgrowth of thrash. Kraft isn't the least bit groundbreaking, but it's a solid and respectable effort that is worth hearing if one is a die-hard fan of early black metal.

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